Study: Software vendors, users at odds over licensing

Software publishers and users are at odds about software licensing, according a recently released study.

While software publishers aggressively move to subscription-based pricing, enterprises preferred perpetual licensing, which had been the norm, said the study, sponsored by Macrovision, the Software & Information Industry Association, and the Centralized Electronic Licensing User Group. The study was based on a September survey of 396 software industry executives and 100 enterprise users.

Currently, one of every three software companies offers subscription-based models as their primary pricing model, with half of publishing respondents expected to do so by 2006, according to the survey. Meanwhile, enterprise users prefer by a two-to-one margin to stick with the perpetual licensing model.

This discrepancy meant there could be an expectation gap between vendors and customers in the future, the study reported.

"I think what's happening is the difference between the laggards and the innovators," vice-president of worldwide marketing at Macrovision, which sells software licensing technologies, Daniel Greenberg, said. While the software publishing and technology industrywas quick to adopt new trends, enterprises such as automotive industries and utilities were more resistant to change, he said.

"We do think there will be some friction as the software publishers try to roll out the subscription pricing," he said.

While perpetual pricing has enabled users to acquire software use rights permanently for a particular release through a single large payment, Greenberg said enterprises still paid ongoing maintenance fees.

Subscription-based pricing would spread the payments out more evenly, Greenberg said.

Although users - through a perpetual license - can keep on using the same release as long as they want, history had shown they wanted to upgrade anyway, Greenberg said.

"I think history has proven that software quickly becomes obsolete - computers get faster, demands get greater, and software quickly gets obsoleted in the process," he said.

The study also found that while the most prevalent pricing models are per-user- and per-seat-based, metrics-driven models are growing in popularity. Under a metrics model, software is licensed based on factors such as number of users, transactions, or time used. By 2006, half of all software publishers responding expect to offer pricing based on metrics.

Users, though, still prefer traditional per-seat and concurrent-user pricing models. More than 70 per cent of enterprise executives maintain this preference, according to the study.

Greenberg said he believed software companies would let users decide on licensing models.

"I don't think any software company can impose a paradigm shift on their customers," he said.

The survey also found that licensing enforcement was moving to digital means and away from non-technical, manual forms of licensing enforcement. By 2006, 92 per cent of software vendors would also have some form of license enforcement in place. Software buyers do prefer newer enforcement methods such as product activation and network licensing over traditional methods such as serial numbers and dongle/USB keys, according to the study.

The average software maintenance fee that enterprises pay for software is 20 per cent, with larger software companies commanding a 22 per cent fee.

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